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post-car in n. michigan: sleeping bear dunes

For a number of reasons we have a backlog of bay-area trips to post, but before we post them we’re interjecting this report of a great post-car trip in northern Michigan. From California this ride is quite a haul if you’re going to do it right, but if you happen to be in the Midwest, especially anywhere near Michigan, pick up Amtrak and head to either Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids or East Lansing, MI on the train and from there take the connecting Amtrak/Indian Trails bus north to Traverse City (from Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids) or Grayling/Gaylord/Boyne Falls (from East Lansing) and bike to Traverse.


Traverse City is a great, small town that sits at the base of a number of crystal blue lakes and is only about 20 miles from the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore.   From Traverse City you can either bike (more below) or take an excellent, on-time, and very cheap bus service (n.b. Monday-Friday service only) to a number of villages located in or very close to the park (i.e. Glen Arbor or Empire, $3 one-way from Traverse). The buses do have bike racks (space for two), and for what it is worth the one driver we met had no problems with our bringing a folder bike inside and seemed like he wouldn’t have minded allowing a full-size bike in either when the rack already had two bikes on it.


We opted to bike to the seashore from Traverse and then return by bus.  There are two main options for the bike ride. Michigan is serious about its rails-to-trails program, so there is a pretty good trail from Traverse up the Leelanau Peninsula that can you get you most of the way to the northern tip of the seashore. A more direct, and hillier route, would be to make your way across the rural country roads of Cedar and other small towns between Traverse and the seashore. There is an excellent map for this entire area produced by the Cherry Capital Cycling Club based in Traverse City. Pick up this map to choose your most preferred biking route (includes info on camping, but lacks detailed and specific info on hill grades—no chevrons here).  Camp at a range of campgrounds (the park’s campground near Glen Arbor is quite nice and affordable), or find a motel or hotel.

— 4 years ago